Missing ‘Game of Thrones’? Visit Westeros Before Season 8

Luxury travel company Zicasso provides two expertly crafted itineraries for HBO series' superfans.

September 18, 2017 5:00 am
Game of Thrones
The end of "Game of Thrones" means the end of subscribing to HBO for many. (HBO)

If you counted yourself among the 16.5 million viewers—or one billion pirates—who tuned in to Game of Thrones‘ Season 7 finale, you’ll know that, despite the many gory conclusions it reached, there are still six episodes left in the HBO series’ epic run. In other words, you’ll have to wait another year before getting to see Season 8.

Luckily, luxury travel company Zicasso has a solution.

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Kit Harington as Jon Snow. (HBO)

They’ve recently launched a pair of Game of Thrones–themed excursions—one in Iceland, another in Spain—that take would-be travelers to a number of the filming locations featured in the Emmy-winning series, including a handful from the freshly finished Season 7. Of course, the itineraries are also replete with the best of the countries’ non-GOT must-sees, day trips, and customizable experiences—not to mention top-shelf accommodations and delicious dining opportunities.

If you’re wondering, this isn’t Zicasso’s first run on the theme: They also curated itineraries for Seasons 5-6 in Spain. And it was no small feat getting the two new ones in order. Steve Yu, Zicasso’s vice president of marketing, tells RealClearLife that the company spent weeks prior to the Season 7 premiere tapping into their network of onsite informants (à la Varys) to provide clues as to where HBO crews would be filming and what exactly the scenes would entail. These “little birds” included onsite contacts, extras, and spies, who knew where casting crews were staying (of course, once the show debuted, Zicasso’s team had to double-back after each show’s airing to confirm that the locations survived the cutting-room floor). Using the latest Iberian itinerary as an example, Yu says: “When we send our clients to Spain, anybody can just do the Google research and go to the film locations that come up, but the way that we wanted to differ [ourselves] was [by] providing more of an immersive experience from the feedback we’ve gotten from our travelers, who typically customize their trips.”

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Toledo, Spain, at night. (Brian Tan/Zicasso)

This customization process is executed in two distinct ways: Zicasso has a “starter” itinerary in place for both Iceland and Spain—armed to the teeth with Thrones locations and everything else in between—and you, the traveler, can tweak it however you see fit. (Yu tells me that they’ve catered to celebrities, including at least one Academy Award–winning film director. Sorry, he couldn’t divulge which one.) The other part of the ethos is offering travelers experiences they might not find at any other luxury travel company. For example, Valyrian steel has come up again and again in the series—and has sliced through many a head and torso. So Yu tells RCLife that on the Spain trip, guests get exclusive access to an actual smithery in Toledo, Spain (see above), where they get to meet a real-life “maester”-level swordsmith (OK, it’s actually maestro or “master” in Spanish, but who’s keeping count?). Says Yu, in his team’s research, it came up that Toledo had produced some of the greatest swords in history—even, reportedly, one used by Hannibal in the Second Punic War (that’s the Carthaginian general, not the serial killer). “We wanted to infuse the whole history and culture of Spain [with] the Game of Thrones series,” says Yu.

Below, RCLife has broken down each adventure into its peak Thrones highlights—along with some comment from Zicasso’s Yu.

Winter Is (Always) Coming: Iceland (7 Days)

Yu tells us that this is the company’s maiden voyage in Iceland, and given that it’s an island nation, that threw the team some curveballs in terms of luxury accommodations. That said, travelers should expect to stay in nothing less than three- to five-star hotels everywhere they go in Iceland, and should bring an adventurous palate, to boot: local delicacies include mutton, shark, and fish jerky. (Pretty much exactly what we picture Ned Stark, head reattached, scarfing down in heaven.)

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Grjótagjá, the cave where Jon Snow found out he knew nothing. (Shutterstock/Zicasso)

As early as Season 2, various locations in Iceland began serving as Game of Thrones‘ blusteringly cold lands beyond the Wall. These included the Wildlings’ home base and where Jon Snow found out, one night filled with passion in Season 3, that he knew nothing. In fact, you can visit the exact cave where the future King of the North and his Wildling lover, Ygritte, exchanged a considerable amount of body heat (the couple had so much fun, they ended up hooking up in real life).

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Dimmuborgir lava fields near Lake Myvatn in Iceland, or where Mance Rayder and company set up shop. (Shutterstock/Zicasso)

That goes down on Day 3. You’ll have been flown from first stop, Reykjavik, to the town of Akureyri, which lies about 40 miles from the Arctic Circle and might as well be known as the unofficial capital of Wildling tourism. During the day’s trek, you’ll be thrust right into various seasons of Thrones around nearly every corner. Early on, you’ll get to peek into the aforementioned lava-formed cave, known as Grjótagjá. And say, you and your travel companion want some alone-time in there to, you know … Yu says Zicasso’s itinerary-customization option allows for an “anything goes” mentality. “As long as we’re not breaking any laws, it’s perfectly doable,” he says.

You’ll also get to follow in Mance Rayder’s footsteps through the lava fields of Dimmuborgir (see above), where he and his scruffy followers set up camp in Season 3, and where he first meets Snow.

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
The black sand beaches of Vík, where scenes from Season 7 were filmed. (Shutterstock/Zicasso)

For Day 4, you’ll find yourself at the black-sand beaches of Vík, where some north-of-the-Wall scenes involving Snow were filmed for Season 7 (the area also likely doubled as Eastwatch-by-the-Sea). Your trek will also take you to Thingvellir National Park, where crews shot the nail-biting trek up to the Eyrie in Season 4. The park is also 10-minute car ride to Hengill Volcano, where Brienne of Tarth and Sandor “the Hound” Clegane have it out.

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Cliffs and deep fissure in Thingvellir National Park. (Shutterstock/Zicasso)

The entire Iceland itinerary costs anywhere from $4,390-$7,582 per person, and gets you everything we mentioned, plus, premium access to the fabled Blue Lagoon; a Northern Lights–hunting excursion, if the weather’s on par; and exclusive access to intriguing oddballs like the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum.

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Kirkjufell mountain and the frozen waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, Iceland. (Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)

Suggested Customizations: RCLife would like to offer a few additional stops to the tour for the addict-level GOT fan. We’d suggest asking your guide to tack on Ófærufoss Waterfall, which stands in for the landscape of Meereen in Season 4, and is near where the peasant girl gets burnt to a crisp by one of Daenerys Targaryen’s rouge dragons. There is also Kirkjufellsfoss (Church Mountain Falls) and Kirkjufell (Church Mountain), which feature into scenes in Season 6 and Season 7.

Spanish Castle Magic: Spain (12 Days)

Beginning in Season 5, Thrones directors sent their crews to Spain, whose culturally diverse history, monarchy, and castle-dotted landscapes made for the perfect staging ground for some of the show’s great kingdoms and climactic moments. Over this 12-day itinerary, Zicasso shows the jet set that Spain is a lot more than just Ibiza and the other Balearics.

While the trip starts in Barcelona, the Game really kicks off on Day 2, when guests are shuttled to the historic city of Girona—specifically, it’s Medieval Quarter. The area is a multi-sectioned goldmine for the amateur or advanced history scholar. It also stood in for the city of Braavos in Season 6 (sorry, there’s no Titan of Braavos colossus protecting the city’s gates).

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
The Titan of Braavos that ‘guards’ the fictional city. (HBO)

One popular area within the greater quarter is the Jewish Quarter—one of the oldest and best preserved in the world—and it’ll look familiar, as it was where the Many-Faced-Godfearing Arya, just a blind “no one” at the time, sold her “oysters, clams, and cockles” from a wagon in Season 5.

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
The Great Sept of Baelor, which Cersei Lannister gets medieval on. (HBO)

You’ll also make your way down to the grand cathedral, which dates from the 11th century and acted as Thrones‘ Great Sept of Baelor. You might remember wildfire-planting Cersei Lannister making it go kaboom! during the Season 6 finale and killing a number of important characters inside it (luckily, that was all just special effects). Also on the day’s packed itinerary is a trip to the Castle of Saint Florentina—a.k.a. Horn Hill in Westeros—where House Tarly (Samwell’s people) make their home.

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Seville’s Alcázar palace, which doubles as the ancestral home of the Martells. (Brian Tan/Zicasso)
Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell. (HBO)

On Days 6–7, you’ll have been whisked off to Seville, which doubles as the city of Dorne in Season 6. You’ll recognize the Alcázar—an opulent 14th-century palace within the Spanish city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site—as Dorne’s Water Gardens, the home of Oberyn “Red Viper” Martell (played by Pedro Pascal of Narcos). Your guide will also bring you down to the medieval Royal Shipyard, which makes a splash in Season 7, doubling as a series of catacombs.

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell (HBO)

Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a trip to España without a few castles. On Day 9, you’ll venture to Cáceres, where you’ll find the Castillo de Almodóvar del Río, a castle with Moorish roots that was built circa 740 AD, which is better known to Thrones‘ fans as Highgarden, ancestral home of House Tyrell. (Shameless James Bond Movie Reference Alert: Tyrell family matriarch, Olenna, who’s played by Diana Rigg and appears in Season 7, co-starred in James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)

The following day, you’ll travel to Spanish capital, Madrid, where Trujillo Castle will be on your list of sights to be seen. As they say, a Lannister always pays his debts—and we guess Zicasso does, too—because Trujillo is better known as Casterly Rock, home of the Lannister clan.

Prices for this adventure begin at $5,059 per person

Zicasso's 'Game of Thrones' Adventures
Botín Restaurant, Madrid, Spain oldest restaurant in the world, 1725. (MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images)

Suggested Customization: As we mentioned above, there’s a lot more to these itineraries than just the Game of Thrones stuff; on Day 4, for example, you get a delectable tour of local pintxos—northern Spain’s version of tapas—in San Sebastian. But since your last three days will be spent in Madrid—a place we called home for a year circa 2002—we’d like to suggest having Zicasso reserve you a table at Botín, the (literal) oldest restaurant in the world. The food is simple, traditional, and delicious, and well, you’ll get to be able to tell all your friends that you ate at the oldest restaurant in the world. Or you can just tuck your napkin into your shirt, roll up your sleeves, and pretend like you’re feasting at the Red Wedding.



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